One Waterproof rain jacket: Oh, yes! For those yucky days! Make sure its the somewhat heavydurable fabric similar to that old yellow 'raincoat' your mom sent you to school with back when Nixon (Eisenhower? Hoover?...) was president.
Several points as raingear is second only to the BIKE in assuring an enjoyable tour.
You can find jackets like this in most camping or military supply stores. Mine was made by Columbia and cost $ . It got me thru the entire tour, including hurricane mitch in Central America. (BEAT THAT! 1 meter of rain in less than 24 hours!) Don't confuse camping stores (high quality at reasonable prices) with sporting good stores (high fashion at outrageous prices.) The plasticky fabric is heavier than the sleek ones you might be tempted to buy, but its much more durable (as a ground cloth, for example!)
- First, get the biggest jacket you can find. The more room you have for dead air, the warmer and drier you will be.
- Second, make sure the arms are as long as possible (to cover your hands in cold rainy weather) and that the cuffs have drawstring (NOT elastic) closures. Then you can tighten/loosen the cuffs as needed to control ventilation.
- Third, make sure the front has both zipper and snap closure. Agian, in light rain the snaps will be ok; heavy or cold rain you can zip up snugly.
- Fourth, make sure a hood is included that folds in the neck. You put this under your helmet when all hell breaks loose: cold wind driven icy rain in your face. It covers your head (80% of heat loss) and keeps your neck dry too. (so does the dickie i mentioned before).
- Fifth, a drawstring waist and/or chest will prevent billowing and also control ventilation.
All those flaps, drawstrings and such help the jacket overcome its lack of breathability. Its not perfect, but its been fine for me in 100,000 kilometers of cycling spanning 18 years.
Why not gore-tex (EXcuuuuuuuuuuuuse me... i mean 'vapor barrier fabric...')? Simple answer? It doesn't work. I discuss this in exquisite detail in my review of Columbia raingear in a later section. To save you clicking there now, let me say: the basic flaw with Gore-tex is it assumes sweat/condensation is exclsuively a matter of breathability. Its NOT. Its NOT. Its NOT. plus the stuff costs a fortune; all this, for raingera that is no lighter and alot less durable than traditional stuff. Save your money for a cup of hot coffee mocha on a rainy day. You'll love it that much more.